The Center for the Study of Drones, at Bard College, have published their most newsworthy stories of 2015. The 10 stories that caught my eye are as follows:
- A shortfall in Air Force drone operators is at “breaking point.“Relatedly, the USAF is calling for $3 billion of investment in drone operations.
- While drone strikes in Pakistan fell, rising slightly in Yemen and Somalia, a new geography of strikes escalated in Iraq and Syria. This includes British strikes against ISIL.
- Global interest in purchasing U.S. drones increased. Non-US lethal drones were also deployed around the world in 2015. This includes the September use of a Paksitani-built drone. In December, in the first known lethal strike by a Chinese-made drone, an Iraqi military CH-4 drone struck suspected ISIL militants.
- The U.S. secret service began devising ways to protect the White House against drones. This follows increased awareness that drones could – and likely will – cause major domestic security issues. This has led to a boom in anti-drone commercial applications and military developments. The U.S. Army revealed that it is developing a chain gun for shooting down small enemy drones.
- U.S. states continued to wrangle with drone legislation and restriction. This piece looks at “The Life and Death of Drone Bill.”
- Drones crashed and caused incidents in record numbers. “Drone Sightings and Close Encounters: An Analysis”
- Interest in drone swarms continued. DARPA announced that it was developing a system to enable a single pilot to operate multiple drones at once in denied airspace. In April, the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research announced that it had begun testing a drone swarm system called LOCUST.Relatedly, the U.S. Army conducted tests with swarms of consumer drones.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in October that it was developing rules that will require all drones to be registered. By December, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration announced a national registry for drone users.
- NASA is also developing an air traffic management system for drones. In June, it announced it was working with Verizon to develop a cellular-based system for monitoring drones in airspace. Amazon urged the FAA to segregate airspace below 500 ft. into zones of “low-speed localized traffic” for recreational users and “high-speed transit” for commercial users, and Google proposed that traffic control be privatized instead of the FAA. The development of NASA’s air traffic management system began live testing in November. It will include testing of four prototypes in the near future.
- The first FAA-approved use of drones for news reporting took place in the air above Selma.